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Centurions go long for children’s center

By Aaron Blevins, 11/21/2012

LAPD’s football team supports children with sight impairment


As part of a longstanding tradition, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Centurions football team treated the students and staff at the Blind Childrens Center in East Hollywood to a picnic last week.

Sgt. James Gaffney visited with students at the Blind Children’s Center last Thursday during a picnic hosted by the LAPD’s football team. (photo by Aaron Blevins)

Players and coaches with the semi-professional football team attended and donated $5,000 to the center, which serves blind or visually impaired children from infancy to second grade.

“We’re excited, and we always are,” linebacker coach Marc Rojas said. “It’s goes to a great cause.”

The Blind Childrens Center has been providing services to visually impaired students since 1938, offering home visits and therapeutic support services, as well as the traditional educational curriculum.

The Centurions have supported the organization since 1975, and have been a constant supporter of the Blind Childrens Center since, executive director Lena French said. She said the football team has raised $150,000 for the center over the years, not including in-kind donations.

French said the support from the Centurions is very much appreciated, as the center does not get state or federal funding. The organization does not charge its families, nor is it a United Way agency, she said. Its funding is solely private.

“We could not do it without them,” French said, adding that the football team also volunteers and brings toys. “We do have a fundraiser department, but we’re limited on how much we can do. We need people who can open doors for us out there, and introduce us to their friends and family and companies and foundations.”

Rojas, who works for LAPD’s Criminal Gang Homicide Division, said the partnership is mutually beneficial. He said there are a lot of negative aspects to his police work; however, helping out in the community helps justify his workload.

“Other than having a conviction handed down from a jury, my position at work, there’s really not much positive about it,” Rojas said. “So coming out here, helping out and supporting the Blind Childrens Center, playing football, being part of something greater than myself and helping an organization, really helps me focus on why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

The Centurions’ support of the center is a year-round commitment. During the holidays, a player dresses as Santa Claus and visits with the children. Last week’s picnic is also an annual event.

“We love it,” Rojas added. “This is one of our bigger events for the Blind Childrens Center.”

Det. Donald Payne, chairman of the Centurions, said the officers are happy to help the center. He also thanked the volunteers who support the football team.

“It’s an honor for us to be here,” Payne said. “It’s an honor to give back to the community. It’s a part of what we do as Los Angeles police officers. It’s engrained in our DNA. It’s really a part of being in public service, and that’s being able to give back to the community.”

The Centurions are currently preparing for their 2013 season, and the team’s first round of tryouts was held last weekend. The season begins in February, and consists of about six or seven games and a bowl game for qualifying teams.

LAPD’s football team went 3-2 last season, and did not qualify for a postseason game. In 2011, the team lost by a touchdown in the championship game to the FDNY Bravest, Rojas said.

The Centurions play in the National Public Safety Football League, and are in the Western Region, which also consists of the LAFD Heat, the San Diego Enforcers, the Bakersfield Falcons, the SoCal Strike Force and the Orange County Lawmen.

Rojas said the team will be suiting up one of its best rookie classes in recent years. The team is eagerly awaiting the upcoming season, especially the game against the rival Heat.

“There’s no love lost between the both of us,” Rojas added with a laugh.

The LAPD Centurions play at Salesian High School, 960 S. Soto St. Some of the proceeds from ticket sales benefit the Blind Childrens Center. For information, visit www.lapdcenturions.com. For information regarding the Blind Childrens Center, visit www.blindchildrenscenter.org.



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